Ea (self-titled): new beginning for mystery Russian doom band?

Ea, self-titled, Solitude Productions, CD SP055 (2012)

I guess when you’re onto a good thing and milking it for all it’s worth, you should stick with it. Especially if you’re locked into a particular groove and the mother lode still promises to yield hidden riches. This self-titled one-track album may signal a new beginning or a change of direction for this mystery Russian band, inspired by sacred texts of ancient civilisations written in languages long forgotten and undeciphered, or it might not. A very brief and delicate piano melody is our entry point into the grand universe of Ea’s ambitions and music: chiming guitars, some with vibrato effects, bombastic percussion and keyboards that lend a rich and warm ambient halo around the gloomy procession. Listeners may feel they’re witnesses to a grand funeral cortege that never ends. Vocals are deep and near-indecipherable beneath the layers of sound (though they’re not thick layers) and there is some death metal influence in the drumming.

These guys have learned something from their last three full-length outings: there is more emotion in this offering and the music’s intense emotion increases, slowly yet surely, with passages where the instruments pause and there is only the afterglow of a heavenly choral ambience bathing listeners in a warm light. About the 17th minute the musicians include a field recording of water being swirled about which is an interesting if pointless touch since the music resumes its onward and upward climb with no change. Spacey quicksilver liquid effects appear later.

Past the halfway point, black metal elements enter with harsh sandpaper vocals, a faster synth drumming pattern and a definite guitar melody leading the way. Clean female vocals, smooth and soothing, enhance the picture. Lead guitar dominates from this point on and while it provides a necessary focus, it’s bland in sound and quite boring in delivery as the track progresses. At various points along the way, the deep gruff vocal declaims lyrics while guitars sorrowfully circle them, going slightly off-key at regular intervals, as if to launch into a different, perhaps more ominous direction.

Save for a brief pause at the 39th minute when the music dies down to trickling water, the track proceeds relentlessly in its own strange, somewhat delirious style towards the end. The music barely changes pace but chugs steadily along,  as if sensing its time is nearly over.

Overall this is solid if not very imaginative music. In its second half, the track appears to flounder under its weight and grandiosity and the lead guitar fiddles aimlessly. Parts of the track could have been edited to tighten up proceedings and give the impression of ever-increasing tension, even a bit of urgency here and there. At least the musicians try to vary the music by introducing some death metal, black metal, electroacoustic and traditional Christian religious musical elements; these never last long nor do they interact much so tensions that might arise from their fusion and help to sustain the track are missed. I get the feeling that at times the musicians are so awed by their creation that they lose control of it and let the music run away under its own massive weight. There’s a self-indulgent and pretentious element in the whole mammoth missive that, with the passage of time, might turn the track into a huge piece of atmospheric funeral doom kitsch.

Contact: Solitude Productions

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